How the world’s largest four-day workweek trial changed people’s lives

But, for the past eight weeks, thousands of people in the United Kingdom have tested a four-day program – with no cut in their pay – that could help usher in a new era of work.

Lisa Gilbert, a lending services manager at Charity Bank, an ethical loan provider in the south-west of England, described her new routine as “unprecedented”.

“I can really enjoy my weekends now because I’ve got my Friday for my work and my other bits and pieces or … he told CNN Business.

Lisa Gilbert, a Lending Services Manager at Charity Bank, is enjoying the extra day with a voyage on the HMS Belfast on the Thames in London.

Gilbert takes care of her son and two elderly parents. The extra day in the week means she no longer has to pick up groceries at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings, and can devote more time to her family.

“I guess I can’t say ‘no sorry we can’ as opposed to ‘yes we can'” she said.

The six-month pilot commits 3,300 workers across 70 companies to work 80% of their normal week in exchange for promising to maintain 100% of their productivity.

The program is being spearheaded by the not-for-profit 4 Day Week Global, Autonomy, a think tank and 4 Day Week UK Campaign, in partnership with researchers from Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.

Researchers will measure the impact of the new work pattern on productivity levels, gender equality, the environment as well as workers’ well-being. At the end of November, companies can decide whether to stick with the new schedule.

But, for Gilbert, the verdict is already there: It’s “life changing,” she said.

‘Really chaotic’

The transition, however, has not been without its hiccups.

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Samantha Losey, managing director of Unity, a public relations agency in London, told CNN Business that the first week was “really chaotic”, as her team was unprepared for the small task.

“To be completely honest with you, the first two weeks – really a mess. We were all at the store. I thought I had made a huge mistake. I had no idea what I was doing,” she said .

But his team quickly found ways to make it work. Now, the company has banned all internal meetings from longer than five minutes, kept all client meetings to 30 minutes and introduced a “traffic light” system to prevent unnecessary disturbances — with coworkers at their desks. There is a light, and set it to ‘Green’. ‘Amber’ if they are happy to talk, ‘Amber’ if they are busy but available to speak, and ‘Red’ if they do not want to be interrupted.

Unity, a public relations agency in London, has "Traffic Light"  system - employees have a light on their desk and set it to 'green';  'Amber' if they are happy to talk, 'Amber' if they are busy but available to speak, and 'Red' if they do not want to be interrupted.
By the fourth week, Losi said, his team had hit its stride, but admits that there is “absolutely” a possibility that he could reinstate the five-day program if productivity levels drop during the six-month trial. can do

“There’s a good 25% chance we won’t get to keep it, but the team is working incredibly hard for it so far,” she said.

‘like a library’

Until last month, Iceland operated the world’s largest pilot of a four-day work week. Between 2015 and 2019, the country put 2,500 of its public sector employees through two tests.

Importantly, those tests found no corresponding drop in productivity — and a dramatic increase in employee well-being.

Gary Conroy, founder and CEO of 5Squareels, a skincare product maker on England’s south coast, has brought “deep work time” to his employees to stay productive.
Gary Conroy (right), founder and CEO of 5 Squirrels, a skincare product maker, "deep work time"  in their company to increase productivity.

For two hours every morning and two hours every afternoon, Conroy’s employees ignore emails, calls or messages from the team and focus on their projects.

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“The whole place goes like a library, and everyone just puts their heads down and breaks up the work,” he said.

According to a survey of 10,600 workers by Asana last September, people spend most of their day at ‘busy work’ – or working for work. The software company found that workers in the United States spend about 58% of their day on activities such as answering emails and attending meetings, rather than being hired.

Conroy said meetings at the company used to be a “talking shop” but are now limited to 30 minutes, and are only allowed two hours outside of ‘deep work hours’.

The result has exceeded everyone’s expectations.

,[The team] It started to feel like they were sabotaging the projects they had always put on the back burner,” Conroy said.

‘Fit for the 21st century’

The extra day has created room for many workers to take up new hobbies, fulfill long-standing ambitions, or devote more time to their relationships.

Workers on the trial took cooking classes, piano lessons, volunteering, fishing and rollerskating, their owners told CNN Business.

For Emily Morrison, an account director at Unity who has dealt with anxiety for most of her adult life, the benefits have been more fundamental.

“Having more downtime and less ‘Sunday horror’ on the weekend has improved my mental health and helped me approach the week with a more positive attitude,” she told CNN Business.

Emily Morrison is an Account Director at Unity, a public relations agency in London, UK.
More than two years into the pandemic, scores of workers have reached their limits. A McKinsey survey of 5,000 global employees last year found that nearly half reported feeling at least some burn.

Losi said one of the main reasons Unity was recruited into the pilot was to compensate for the “extraordinary level of burnout” its staff had to deal with during the worst of the pandemic.

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Mark Howland, Charity Bank’s director of marketing and communications, told CNN Business that he uses his day to day to improve his health and fitness.

He’s always wanted to compete in a triathlon, but has felt guilty for spending time training away from his family. not anymore.

Howland said, “With my day off I’m going on a long bike ride, taking care of myself, taking some time off and then doing chores around the house and with family for the whole weekend. I’m spending time.”

The bank is unlikely to go back the way things were.

“The five-day work week is a 20th century concept, which is no longer appropriate for the 21st century,” he said.